Monday, November 28, 2016
Last week, Quinta Jurecic suggested at LawFare that an essay/book by moral philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt would be "a good place to start" learning about Donald Trump's relationship to truth. If Jurecic is right, and in many respects she seems to be, then we are in rough shape already. But the Jurecic/Frankfurt take is just a good place to start.
Jacob Levy's tweet-say from this morning provides an even more unsettling, but essential for that reason, line of thought on this topic.
Levy's core claim is that Trump's promulgation of "easily fact-checked nonsense" is useful in providing "sheer shows of power and dominance" that occur when "subordinates" repeat and support Trump's obvious untruths:
The power to make someone who *knows [that] you speak untruths* repeat your untruths is profound, and big obvious lies ("2+2=5") are best for it. Trump repeatedly did this kind of thing to his subordinates over the course of his campaign, testing who was the most faithful kicked dog.
If Levy is right, and it's hard to disagree however unpleasant it is to have to acknowledge, Trump deliberately uses falsehood to compromise people within his orbit. This is a common "group initiation tactic," Levy writes, "from childhood bullies to gangs to the mafia: make the new member one of us, don't let them think they're any better."
I could be wrong about Levy being right. Judge for yourself. Regardless, we can still have some hope that separation of powers and federalism can bear the load placed on them by a Trump presidency. And perhaps reflection on the awfulness of moral and political manipulation through deliberate falsehood can help us all appreciate anew the splendor of truth.